Society and Culture

The significant of time in Igbo culture

In human interactions, two ways are formed of indicating or reckoning time. The Igbo differentiate between egocentric time scale, and structural time (which is based on the totality of inter-personal relations within the entire Igbo social structure). That is, the Igbo have human and non-human measures of time.An individual is the unit of reckoning time under the egocentric time measure. The Igbo periodize the age of individual, and the periodization is meant to be of universal Application within an Igbo traditional community. For example, a newborn baby is circumcised after, say, three Igbo weeks (that is, eight days). The Yoruba go further to portray the egocentric reckoning of time by giving a name to a newly born male baby on the ninth day, and on the seventh day for a female baby. This, they contend, is because the male has in different ways roughly approximating to particular stages of development. For example, the Igbo talk of nwa apa n’aka, a child still carried on the lap of its mother. The stages of crawling, walking, running errands, and soon, are also used to measure time among the traditional Igbo.
There is yet another use of an individual for the purpose of measuring time. Since individuals live not in isolation but in relation with one another, a communo-centric measurement of time develops among the Igbo. A non-causal association of two events reckons time, whether or not they are isochronous. Thus, if a man is asked where he got married, he replies by associating that event (his marriage) with more popular events in the community. Little wonder, therefore, that they were older than someone else. Such claims are made because great respect is paid to age and seniority among the traditional Igbo, and indeed all Africans. Time derived of events, therefore, makes no sense among the Igbo. This sharpens the traditional Igbo memory of the before-ness, after-ness, or simultaneity of events. It has inherent difficulty; namely, since communication was poor in traditional Igbo societies, time was localized and relative to structural space.

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